The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation
John E. Mayfield
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The concepts of evolution and complexity theory have become part of the intellectual ether permeating the life sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, and, more recently, management science and economics. In this book, John E. Mayfield elegantly synthesizes core concepts from multiple disciplines to offer a new approach to understanding how evolution works and how complex organisms, structures, organizations, and social orders can and do arise based on information theory and computational science.
Intended for the intellectually adventuresome, this book challenges and rewards readers with a nuanced understanding of evolution and complexity that offers consistent, durable, and coherent explanations for major aspects of our life experiences. Numerous examples throughout the book illustrate evolution and complexity formation in action and highlight the core function of computation lying at the work's heart.
English carries a lot of information. But remember, the engineering perspective on information cares not a whit about the meaning of the message, only how special it is. The number of alternatives, the probability, the length of a message, and the amount of information a message carries are all closely related. Long messages can carry more information than short ones, and long messages are vastly more improbable. Shannon needed an information measure that was additive; in other words, if two
Think of driving a car and imagine yourself as one system and the car as a second system. These two systems interact. You, seated in the driver’s seat with your foot on the gas pedal, are in a state of the “you” system. Press your foot down and you are in another state; this new state causes the car system to transition to a new state in which it is going faster. Certain of your personal states have meaning to the car system; others, such as closing one eye or waving your left hand, do not. In
than required for gears to mesh in a watch. How do cells make such structures? Table 4.1 Seven features shared by all cells. 1. A lipid-protein semifluid membrane separating inside from out. 2. DNA molecules encoding instructions for the synthesis of RNA and proteins. 3. Machinery for the synthesis of proteins. 4. A self-regulating metabolic network assuring a relatively consistent internal environment. 5. Systems providing for the orderly replacement, repair, and duplication of all parts
potential and voltagegated sodium and potassium ion channels whose cyclic conformational changes generate sequential ion flows when triggered. The detailed properties of these proteins, especially the cyclic conformational changes experienced by the voltage-gated sodium channels and the characteristic times these channels remain open before closing, make action potentials inevitable whenever proteins with these particular properties are present in a cell membrane and the membrane potential rises
which can often reproduce in a matter of hours within the body. Because evolution operates on a time scale measured by generations, microorganisms can evolve tens of thousands of times faster than we can. Any specific molecular defense that we might evolve over millions of years can be outmaneuvered by a counter-evolutionary strategy in a few months or years. How is it then we are not constantly being overwhelmed by an avalanche of microbial infection? The short answer is that within each of our